BEEVILLE — City voters will have an opportunity to see at least three proposed redistricting maps and make comments before the City Council approves a final version of new ward lines before the May city elections.
Attorney Robert T. Bass of the Austin law firm Allison, Bass & Associates, LLP, spoke to members during their meeting Tuesday evening, Jan. 10, at City Hall.
Bass said his firm already had some recommendations on how to redraw lines of the five City Council wards so they comply with federal election guidelines.
Bass said population changes in several of the city’s wards had reached the 10 percent deviation that requires redistricting. With an official population of 12,863 recorded in the most recent census figures, the attorney said the ideal population of each ward should be as close as possible to 2,573 residents.
According to Bass’ information, Wards 1 and 2 have the highest populations, with 2,790 residents in Ward 1 and 2,685 in Ward 2.
The population in Ward 5 is 2,663 residents while Ward 3 has 2,409 and Ward 4 has 2,316 residents.
Bass had one proposed redistricting plan for tentative study but said it would be up to the City Council to make suggestions about changes and how they might affect certain population makeups of particular neighborhoods.
The attorney said it is important that ethnic makeups of each proposed ward are not altered by much. Most of the city’s residents, 71.92 percent, are Hispanic. Anglos make up 23.68 percent of the population and African-Americans compose 2.34 percent of the population.
“I believe the proposed plan will preclear,” Bass said. However, he was not recommending that the plan be submitted without input from both the council and public.
Bass said he hopes to have at least three plans to show the council when he returns for the Jan. 24 meeting.
City Manager Tom Ginter expects the council to schedule a public hearing to allow voters to comment on the three final plans under consideration.
The map Bass showed council members Tuesday of a suggested new plan did not vary much from the one in effect now. He said additional plans probably would not require many changes in the current ward lines.
Bass said council input would be critical, however, because he is not familiar with the neighborhoods.
“I may be offending someone by putting a certain area in a wrong ward,” Bass told the council. “I’m depending on the City Council to make those corrections.”
The attorney reminded council members that they need to settle on a final plan quickly so that it can be presented to the U.S. Department of Justice for preclearance in time for the May elections in Wards 2, 3 and 4.
“You can get it done, but you don’t have a lot of time to tarry,” Bass said.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.